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Adjudication Con: Agreement would disrupt Oregon water law

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/6/10

H&N CORRECTION: The Herald and News misreported paragraph 2: Senator Whitsett irrigates only 18 acres, using groundwater, not 1800 as reported by Beaver.

      State Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, said the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the settlement between the Tribes and on-Project irrigators would disrupt the adjudication process.

   Whitsett, who irrigates 1,800 acres outside the Project, said the adjudication process already provides ample opportunity for people to settle disputes and claims.
   “It’s always worked,” he said.
   Rather, bypassing adjudication to resolve water conflicts through the restoration agreement could invite disaster, Whitsett said. He claimed the agreement violates private property rights of individual water rights holders and breaches federal law, which calls for the states   to define claims.
   The state’s involvement in the restoration agreement also creates problems, Whitsett said. Because the state’s water resources department   is a signatory to the document, the state must uphold the document, which includes the Tribes’ water claims, he added.
   “It seems to me they’ve painted themselves into a corner,” Whitsett said.
   Tom Mallams, an off-Project irrigator, agreed with Whitsett. He said he’s not opposed to settlements, but he believes the restoration agreement would disrupt Oregon water law in its current form.
   “It’s going to open up lawsuits all over the state,” he said.  
   But state officials and Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office have repeatedly said the state’s involvement in the restoration agreement is appropriate and necessary. They also said there is a line between those working on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and adjudication, and the adjudicator is not involved or briefed on what the restoration agreement lays out.
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